How Silicon Valley's rebel VC would save Twitter

Vf summitMatt Rosoff/Business InsiderLeft-to-right: Chamath Palihapitiya, Aaron Levie, and Mary Meeker participated in a panel discussion led by Nick Bilton at the 2016 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit.

Chamath Palihapitiya has a plan to save Twitter: make it a little bit more like Reddit.

Palihapitiya, the principal of VC firm Social Capital is one of Silicon Valley’s most outspoken investors, and he did not disappoint on stage on Wednesday at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit. VF’s Nick Bilton asked the panelists, who also included Box CEO Aaron Levie and Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker, what they’d do if they were asked to take over Twitter for Jack Dorsey today.

Palihapitiya had a three part plan:

  • Reduce the cost basis, which he said “makes no sense” and limits the company’s ability to innovate. Palihapitiya said that Twitter spends about one-third as much money as Facebook does on operating the service, even though it’s got about one-sixth as many users (about 300 million per month to Facebook’s approximately 1.7 billion), and limits the length of posts to 140 characters. When Levie suggested it was crazy that Twitter hadn’t been able to address its problems with trolling and abuse of users, Palihapitiya said “The product is technically broken.”
  • Figure out the product vision. Palihapitiya said that Twitter shows there’s a demand for something between Facebook and Reddit, where some content in the news feed is chosen algorithmically (like Facebook), but you can dive deeper into particular subjects if you really want to (like Reddit). He thinks Twitter needs to do a better job enabling the dive-deep part. “It’s impossible to engage deeply in the product. I’d change that.”
  • Restore morale. “That is a broken culture now,” Palihapitiya said. “People who are there now are probably really sad.” He pointed out that Twitter was able to create a product that hundreds of millions of people use every month, and says there are still good people there. “Liberate them from whatever they’re dealing with now.”

Meeker pointed out that it’s easy to talk about turnarounds, but hard to execute them, suggesting that it would take at least 100 days for anybody new to come in there and fix what ails the company.

“Rome wasn’t built on 140 characters,” Meeker quipped.

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